Judges of the Ohio Third District Court of Appeals (from the left): Judge John R. Willamowski, Presiding Judge L. Preston, and Judge Stephen R. Shaw listen as arguments are presented in the case of The Toledo Edison Company v. Bd. Of Defiance County Commissioners, et al. on Tuesday. The appealate court conducted a session with two cases in the Van Wert County Common Pleas Courtroom. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
Judges of the Ohio Third District Court of Appeals (from the left): Judge John R. Willamowski, Presiding Judge L. Preston, and Judge Stephen R. Shaw listen as arguments are presented in the case of The Toledo Edison Company v. Bd. Of Defiance County Commissioners, et al. on Tuesday. The appealate court conducted a session with two cases in the Van Wert County Common Pleas Courtroom. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)

BY ED GEBERT
Times Bulletin Editor
egebert@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - Students from Van Wert High School and Wayne Trace High School got a rare look at a court of appeals in action on Tuesday.

Judges of the Ohio Third District Court of Appeals heard arguments in two cases in the Van Wert Common Pleas Courtroom with students watching. The judges had been invited to conduct business in Van Wert by Common Pleas Court Judge Charles D. Steele.

"Many students make the decision to become an attorney when they are in high school, so we think it's important to give them a chance to see how the system works," said Presiding Judge Vernon L. Preston after the conclusion of the event. "Very few people know what the Court of Appeals does. So we make ourselves available to any county who asks us to come."

After arguments were heard in one civil case and one criminal case, the judges and attorneys stayed to conduct a question-and-answer session with the students for approximately 30 minutes.

Preston continued, "We feel that it's very important for the image of the court, but more importantly to help students understand how the judicial system works."

The cases themselves were very real. The morning began with the case of the Toledo Edison Company v. Board Of Defiance County Commissioners, et al. The case involved a dispute over approximately 70 utility poles and whether or not they were obstructions in a highway.

The second case was from Hancock County. The defendant, Corey Perkins, was found guilty of three counts of rape against a woman he met in a bar who remembered only portions of the evening due to drinking. Arguments at times included mature descriptions of the allegations against Perkins.

Preston commented on the rape case afterward. "We have to find appropriate cases, and that's sometimes very difficult when you have a high school audience. Today was tough enough. We thought this one could be very instructive for some of the students and some of the things they might be getting into if they put alcohol and social life together."

According to Preston, two-page summaries from each side of the case were made available to the teachers before the event so that students could know about the two cases before the day of arguments comes. In the question-and-answer session afterward Preston cautioned that the judges could not discuss particulars of the two cases, but would answer other questions.

Questions ranged from reasons for overturning a decision to the use of case law as precedence. Most of the questioning was done by the adults though, and most of the obvious questions such as the next steps in the cases and the time frame of decisions were covered in statements made by the judges.

No decisions are announced in the cases the day they are argued before the panel. Typically it takes around six months from the original trial decision until the Court of Appeals announces its decision.

No major adjustments had to be made to allow for the three-judge panel to hear the cases in the courtroom. The bench is long enough to accommodate the three judges, and other bystanders were able to be seated in unused chairs and in the jury box.

Preston had praise for the efforts to bring the appellate court to Van Wert. It is not the first time the court has appeared locally, but it is the first time in the seven years Preston has been on the bench. The court does appear annually at the Ohio Northern University School of Law and in a few of the 17 counties that are a part of the Third District.

"Everybody has treated us great," he said. "I know this community has reason to be proud of the renovations that were made... I think the courthouse is a place the community should be proud of, and it should be a focus area for the community. I think it's wonderful they were able to do this."